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Fonterra ordered to amend ‘misleading’ online dairy nutrition claims

By Mark Astley , 04-Jul-2012

Fonterra has been forced to make changes to its website, after the New Zealand Advertising Standards Authority concluded that the dairy exporter had milked several nutritional claims.

The ASA partly upheld the five-part complaint, which alleged that several statements made by the firm about the nutritional benefit of dairy products were factually untrue. This included claims that dairy is “essential” and “vital” to a balanced dietand that “we all need it.”

The complaint, which was lodged by G Reynolds, also scrutinised the phrases, “no other source of calcium can be absorbed as well” and “it is the richest dietary source of calcium.”

In line with the petitioner’s arguments, Fonterra agreed to make some alterations to the wording of its nutritional claims.

The ASA settled with Fonterra regarding on the changes it made to three of the five statements in question, but upheld the complaints relating to the remaining two.

Claims were not factual

The complainant alleged that all five stated claims were not factual.

According to Reynolds, Ministry of Health nutrition guidelines state than all essential nutrients can be obtained from “well-planned vegan diets which contain no dairy products.”

In response, Fonterra agreed to make some alterations to the wording on its website.

It changed the phrase ‘we all need it’ to ‘we all need them’ and ended its use of the word ‘essential’ to describe the presence of dairy in a balanced diet - instead opting for the word ‘important’.

“It [milk] is the richest dietary source of calcium” was also changed this to “Milk is the richest food source of bio-available calcium.”

The ASA concluded: “In summary, the Complaints Board ruled the Complaint was upheld (in part) regarding statements 2 and 4, and settled (in part) regarding statements 1, 3 and 5,” said deliberation notes from the ASA.

Not “adequately substantiated”

While it swapped ‘essential’ for ‘important’, Fonterra refused to amend its use of the word ‘vital’. The ASA Complaints Board upheld the complaint concerning the word on the grounds that its use could be misleading to the consumer.

Fonterra refused to make alterations to the statement four, which stated: “No other source of calcium can be absorbed as well by the body, the other nutrients in dairy foods help the absorption.”

The complainant made claims that calcium from many vegetables, including bok choi and broccoli, are more absorbable than calcium for dairy milk, cheese or yoghurt.

Fonterra, defending their initial claim, said: “This is technically correct, the casein-whey protein complex plus phosphates in milk and milk products assist in calcium absorption.”

However, the Complaints Board agreed that the statement was likely to mislead and had not been “adequately substantiated.”

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